Camelot goes to war, and Arthur has to stop it.
Merlin is ticking along in marvellous fashion now. This week’s episode was not perfect, but it was certainly a perfect example of The Merlin Formulae.
The Merlin Formulae: Token Bad Guy In The Castle/Guest Bad Guy says or does something that gets a Good Character all in a flutter, usually due to some sort of character flaw that the Good Character has. The Good Character does something bad or that they usually wouldn’t do, regrets it, does something stupid/dangerous but noble to fix it and then, thanks to a little help from Merlin’s magic, everything works out okay. It’s a bit like a Shakespearean tragedy, but with less suicide.
For this episode and indeed this series Token Bad Guy In The Castle has switched from Morgana to Agravaine, but apart from that this ran completely to plan. Arthur is influenced by Agravaine into killing someone rather than being the nice guy he usually is. This causes war to be declared on Camelot, which Arthur tries to stop because he doesn’t want anyone to be killed. He puts himself forward as a champion for one-to-one combat, ends up (despite Morgana and thanks to Merlin) winning, shows the other army that he’s a very nice chappie, goes back to the castle having learnt an important lesson about being a King. And there is also a subplot where he tells Gwen to shove it because he’s King now, before realising he should follow his heart and go out with her anyway.
It feels like they’re trying to make Merlin a more grown up version of the fun and frolicking of the first few series. It works most of the time, but sometimes it gets a bit awkward and clunky. This episode, whilst being very enjoyable, was definitely an example of that. Whilst I love watching it and am glued to the screen, it feels a bit like something is missing.
Perhaps they’re just running out of ideas. Uther being killed so Arthur becoming King does shake things up a little bit, but not much — Arthur’s stones being tested and him coming up as a good guy has been a common theme of previous series. Really, they need Arthur to find out that Merlin has magic. I’ve got my fingers, toes and various other appendages crossed that that is the finale for this series, and we can have next series dealing with it.
The writers need to buck their ideas up about what is romantic, too. I used to love the scenes between Gwen and Arthur, but when Arthur was apologising to her in this episode it seemed like the kind of thing that a 15 year old “sensitive” boy would think was romantic. Pulling her close with a slightly sleazy look, kissing her, saying “Does that answer your question?” No, no, no no no no no no. That isn’t what their relationship is like, what it’s ever been like. Make it be all lovely like it used to be.
And please, make Gwen tell him off again. She would have so not been impressed by Arthur’s Casanova act there. She used to love Arthur and think he was a great man whilst still recognising he had faults and telling him off for them. She got angry, she spoke her mind to him, that’s why he fell for her. Now she may as well just bat her eyelids, doodle “Gwen + Arthur 4eva IDST” on the inside page of her diary and say “Oh, I love you Arthur, you’re sooooooooooooooo great”.
But I am finding it quite amusing that Smirking Morgana has been replaced with Glowering Morgana. Poor Morgana. She had it all going for her — pretty clothes, loving what-she-thought-was-an-adoptive family, happy life. Now she’s living in caves, unable to locate a hairbrush and nothing is going her way. All she wants is to murder Arthur and take his place on the throne of Camelot, and it just won’t work. No wonder her default expression is now a cross between a sulky two year old and a displeased Sir Alan Sugar.
But anyway. Good episode. Not great, but it kept me happy and I’m still optimistic that they can pull something brilliant out of the bag for the rest of the series.
You can see this episode of Merlin on the iPlayer, or find more about the series on the Merlin section of the BBC website.
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